Category Archives: Good Read

Charlie Burrell knows jazz and a thing or two


Charles Burrell, Jr. left, Charlie Burrell on right. Photo taken at First Friday Jazz brunch, January, 2015. (Purnell Steen can be seen heading toward the piano for the brunch concert)

You’d think he’d write exclusively about playing the stand up bass or, jazz or, Denver Symphony Orchestra or, Five Points in the 1930-40’s.  He does. Yet Charlie gives that and more to his readers. What you won’t read is the typical WWII musician’s escapades on drugs, jail, or complaints about the situation.  Don’t be fooled though, he was not an unobservant slouch. This musician took it all in, like, it was better to avoid small town America if you’re a black man. He knew, if he were stopped, it was likely he would miss his gig. It wasn’t easy for a black man to get out of jail in those days for just driving through rural America or, East Denver for that matter. Despite a less than perfect childhood, Charlie Burrell went on to share the stage with Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Count Bassie, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton.

His book, The Life of Charlie Burrell, Breaking the Color Barrier in Classical Music, is testimony to a fine man and true artist. The book proves without a doubt that Charlie Burrell is a gentleman, a hero, a kind educated man, a talented musician, the no-bull-shit-don’t-you-mess-with-me-or-my-friends-you m-f, kind-of-guy.  Born into the ghettos of Detroit, Charlie Burrell, in my opinion, is in every sense of the word – a hero and a legend.

Burrell had the passion and where-with-all to learn everything he could learn about classical music & instruments, rifts, rhythms, tone, style & music etiquette while dragging a huge-ass instrument all over the world. His set-backs and struggles, he made them interesting. Still, he overcame more than you or I could imagine. Once you read the book, you will wonder as I did. ‘Would I have done what Charlie did for his art?’

At 12 yrs old, Charlie took the only instrument that was offered to him in his school, the huge stand up bass. It became the love his life, his lone mistress, his joy and his road to a well-respected career at the Denver Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and jazz joints around the world.

There’s genuine depth and intellect woven through the book and, there’s much to know about Charlie Burrell, inside & outside.  Not only about his music, memories and anecdotes but about perseverance and pride in giving of oneself.  His niece, Grammy Award winner Dianne Reeves and nephew Purnell Steen (jazz pianist) have much to say about Uncle Charlie. He recognized their talent and encouraged them with the love and knowledge of music and his well-honed skills in ‘becoming a person.’ You have to read the book to understand how this phrase was important in the making of Charlie Burrell.

Charlie Burrell received a Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award in Denver last week. I can not think of a more deserving person.

Rock on, Charlie Burrell.

The Life of Charlie Burrell, Breaking the Color Barrier in Classical Music, by Charlie Burrell and Mitch Handelsan, Foreward by Dianne Reeves. #CharlieBurrell

ISBN: 1502896451

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The 35th Starz Film Fest & C.B. DeMille – Wouldn’t he love to be here?

I meant to post this press release earlier in the week because I thought its debut fitting for Denver film buffs. Here’s my suggestion, no need to think you can get into a great book right now, so go ahead and buy the book at the Tattered Cover between screenings at the Denver Film Center. Then in two weeks, think about it, what better way to relax and relive Old Hollywood via Cecil B. DeMille? I believe this is the very cure needed to recover from visual overload.  Grab your copy of  CBDM, a cup of tea, find the warmest room in the house and emerse yourself into the pages of original stories about Hollywood and how it began. Our marathon film festival wraps November 11, 2012..

C.B. DeMille: The Man Who Invented Hollywood.

A New Novel Gives Cecil B. DeMille His “Close-Up” on the eve of Paramount Pictures’ 100th Anniversary: Best-selling author Robert Hammond celebrates Paramount Pictures’ 100th Anniversary with the release of his latest novel, “C.B. DeMille: The Man Who Invented Hollywood.” (New Way Press)

It seems that everyone in Hollywood is either talking about Paramount‘s upcoming 100th anniversary or giving out another award bearing the name of director Cecil B. DeMille. Well then it should come at no surprise to hear that award-winning author and screenwriter Robert Hammond, has released his latest novel entitled “C. B. DeMille: The Man Who Invented Hollywood.” In this novelization of the beginnings of director Cecil B. DeMille’s film career starting as a failed stage actor in the early 1900’s, Hammond goes into the director’s early family life in New York City, his relationship with his wife Constance, and young daughter “Ciddy” and peers into his evide nt character flaws. In C. B. DeMille: The Man Who Invented Hollywood, the reader will discover the true origins of the then burgeoning film industry and what led DeMille, to leave New York for a little known southern California town called ‘Hollywood,’ to follow his new calling as a film director.

Once out west DeMille thrives as the author describes how, along with Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky, they form ‘Famous Players-Lasky Corporation’ later changed to ‘Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation’ the forerunner to ‘Paramount Pictures Studios’. The novel is well written and encapsulates the great filmmaker’s Hollywood odyssey of excess, infidelity, redemption and reverence, leading him to be the most celebrated figure in entertainment history and the “Greatest Showman on Earth.”

“C. B. DeMille: The Man Who Invented Hollywood” has already been noticed by Hollywood and an adaptation of the novel has been in development to make it into a biopic feature film by producer Brandon Pender, through his Ithaca Entertainment Media Group (Indie Prod Co.) with author Hammond set to tackle the first draft of the screenplay. Earlier this August, the author Robert Hammond, released his first ‘DEMILLE’ themed book entitled ‘Ready When You Are: Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments for Success’ (New Way Press)

Los Angeles producers Gabrielle Evans-Fields and Brandon Pender are currently reaching out to prominent film directors and production partners as well as engaging in the process of attaching A-List talent to this groundbreaking endeavor. Evans-Fields says, Mr. DeMille is finally ready for his own close-up.” The biopic ‘C. B. DeMille: The Man Who Invented Hollywood’ is scheduled to be released in mid to late 2014.

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